The answer is as plain as black and white—Persecutions? Yes.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Pope Francis (L) prays as a Jewish Rabbi looks on at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 26, 2014. Pope Francis faces a diplomatic high-wire act as he visits sacred Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem on the final day of his Middle East tour AFP PHOTO/ VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Late last evening, while watching Clemson finishing out on top over Ohio State
in a battle in the Fiesta Bowl, a breaking news alert popped up on my phone…

The initial report was that there had been a stabbing outside of a synagogue
in New York.

“Oh Lord,” I thought out loud, “not again!”

As the facts started to come in more clearly, the attack had actually happened
inside the home of a Rabbi who lived next door to a Synagogue in Monsey, New York.

Reports were that a man had entered the home, where Hasidic members of a synagogue
had gathered prior to going to celebrate the 7th night of Hanukkah,
and began hacking people with a machete.

The news headline read:
New York Jews continue Hanukkah celebrations after stabbing at
rabbi’s home that left 5 wounded

The story explained that
Five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in New York during a Hanukkah celebration
on Saturday night —
but that didn’t stop worshippers from continuing their prayers at a synagogue next door.

Soon after the attack in the suburb of Monsey, located just 35 miles north of New York City
in Rockland County, Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and his followers gathered at the adjacent synagogue,
which the rabbi leads, and sang together in prayer.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley tweeted a video of Rottenberg
and his followers continuing their celebration of the seventh night of Hannukah.
“The grace of God did not end and his mercy did not leave us,”
they sang, according to a translation of their song posted online.

Here’s a link to the initial story
https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-hanukkah-stabbings-five-wounded-synagogue-celebrations

The following day, I ran across a post shared by a fellow blogger…
The post seemed more than ironically timely as it addressed an alarming concern…

The concern being that there is a troubling rise in growing antisemitism while being
mirrored by a simultaneous decline in Holocaust memory.

Meaning—attacks on Jews is on the rise while the history of the Holocaust
is fading.

Fading as many young people have little to no grasp of the darker side of
20th-century history.
Just considering the almost rabid fascination by youthful generations with socialism
then this should not be terribly surprising—but terrible it is.

Here is the post along with a link to the full article.

A Growing Monster
December 29, 2019
by Anna Waldherr

A Europe-wide CNN poll in November 2018 found a rise in anti-Semitism and a
decline in Holocaust memory [1].
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by almost 10% in 2018, to a 10 year high [2][3].
In December 2018, a Greek Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the fourth time [4].
In January 2019 a synagogue was vandalized in the Bulgarian capitol Sofia [5].
In June 2019 planned construction on the site of mass graves dating to the
Holocaust came to light in the Ukraine [6].
By July 2019 anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom had spiked [7].
A video showing West Ham soccer fans singing an anti-Semitic fight song about
rival club Tottenham Hotspur (which has a largely Jewish fan base) was posted to Twitter.
There is a monster growing in Europe. Anti-Semitism has increased substantially since
the 2015 immigration crisis [8].
France reported a 74% increase in violence against Jews.

“An alarming pattern of anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe,
from France to Germany to Sweden and elsewhere on the continent…
Antisemitism is not, and cannot, remain just a Jewish problem.
This is an issue that affects all Europeans, and Western society as a whole.”

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

[1] CNN, “A Shadow over Europe” by Richard Allen Greene, 11/27/18, https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/.

[2] France 24, “Anti-Semitic attacks rose sharply in Germany in 2018, report says”, 2/13,19, https://www.france24.com/en/20190213-anti-semitism-hate-crime-jews-germany-afd.

[3] New York Times, “The New German Anti-Semitism” James Angelos,
5/21/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/magazine/anti-semitism-germany.html.

[4] Times of Israel, “Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year”, 12/17/18, https://www.timesofisrael.com/greek-holocaust-memorial-vandalized-for-4th-time-this-year/.

[5] The Jerusalem Post, “Synagogue in Bulgarian Capitol of Sofia Vandalized by
Stone-Throwing Incident” by Zachary Keyser, 1/22/19,
https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Synagogue-in-Bulgarian-capital-of-Sofia-vandalized-by-stone-throwing-incident-578217.

[6] Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7),
“Ukraine plans construction atop Holocaust-era mass graves” by Cnaan Lipshiz, 6/18/19, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/264735.

[7] CNN, “New report shows spike in British anti-Semitism” by Ivana Kottasova, 8/1/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/europe/antisemitism-incidents-rising-gbr-intl/index.html.

[8] The Guardian, “Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe,
figures show” by Jon Henley, 2/15/19,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/15/antisemitism-rising-sharply-across-europe-latest-figures-show.

A Growing Monster

Then if things weren’t troubling enough, a story broke Sunday morning about a
gunman walking into a church outside of Fort Worth, Texas and killing parishioners.
The gunman entered the church during communion and opened fire with a shotgun,
killing two and critically wounding another before being fatally shot by
quick-acting parishioners.

Texas church shooting leaves 2 dead, witness says gunman opened fire during communion

https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-church-shooting-texas-injured-active

When Evil attacks our Spiritual foundation, we have always struggled to understand.

Yet here’s the thing, Evil is not something to be analyzed or neatly understood.
It does not play by the rules.
The fallen light-bearer is now the father of darkness.
Rules do not apply to Satan or to the Evils he relishes upon this realm we call home.

And yet the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, went on a news talk show Sunday
morning and tried to blame life in Washington and the hate that is seemingly
generated there, on the latest spate of attacks on Jews in his city and state.

Because we all know that when we have no answers, we blame Trump.

But Trump is not Satan…contrary to popular belief.

Persecution against both Christians and Jews has been with us throughout the ages,
yet there is an alarming uptick taking place across the globe.
Physical persecution to emotional and psychological persecution.

Might time be of the essence for both Light and Dark?

Faith, belief, God, Jesus, love, kindness, forgiveness, the family, honor,
righteousness…these are all components of our true essence…the piece
of the Divine which continues to reside in our souls.

And each and every one of those components is an enemy of the Darkness.

I read today that many Jews are now afraid to wear anything that
symbolizes their faith in fear of being attacked.

This while many Christians are being told that, at places such as work and
school, they are not allowed to have a Bible on their desk or to wear
a cross or other religious symbols.

As the shadows grow long, remain steadfast…
for your God will not be moved by man nor darkness.

You will be hated by everyone because of me,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

Reverence, Revered and Respect

“Let parents then bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit of reverence.”
― Plato

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

DSC01683
(how pure is white / Julie Cook / 2015)

I was driving to town today when the cars in front of me suddenly began pulling over to the side of the road.
I wondered if an ambulance was approaching as I also began rapidly slowing down while making my way to the edge of the road.

The lead car of the approaching procession was one of the local police.
Following close behind was a solemn black hearse and behind that was a long line of cars with their hazard lights all flashing.

Those of us on the opposite side of the road, the now growing yet stopped line of on-coming traffic, waited patiently and respectfully until the funeral procession passed us by.

I am always greatly moved when I happen to find myself on the road when such a sad and somber processional of cars rambles by—well wishes and prayers are silently sent to those passerby’s on their way to a rite of passage full of difficult farewells.

Incidents like the one this morning always bring to mind a memory I hold of a similar time of respectful observance. It was several years ago when I was visiting Cortona, Italy. My aunt and I had wandered into the local Pharmacia. Italian pharmacies are truly experiences steeped in decorum and order. . .which is such a contrast in a country known for its unexplainably chaotic traffic as well as its passionate and unrestrained emotions.

As we were wandering about the store, looking at a display of the cutest sandals of all things, the lights in the store were suddenly turned off as the sales lady reverently crossed herself as she moved toward the door in order to shut it. She held her finger up to her lips, hushing the now curious patrons inside, before turning her attention back to what was soon to be passing by the store.
And that’s when we all saw it.
Along the ancient cobbled stone road a white hearse slowly made it’s way through the small medieval town followed by a long line of mourners who were marching silently behind.

As soon as the funeral caravan had passed, the door was reopened, the lights popped back on and it was business as usual.

When it comes to our dead and dearly departed, it appears that both respect and reverence are deeply rooted and widely universal.
And yet I am bewildered by the lack of such which we woefully fail to show, demonstrate or deliver to the living, our fellow human beings.

Sitting on the side of a small town’s road, as a local funeral procession snakes its way to a countryside cemetery, my thoughts turn from this current scene of respect and reverence to one of tragic disrespect. . .to the very real and raw emotions, coupled with the agonizing questions now swirling around a signal sinister act, in a sister state’s colonial coastal city. . .

A gunman walks into a church in Charleston
A gunman walks into an elementary school in Connecticut
A gunman walks into a youth camp in Norway
A gunman walks into a museum in Tunsia
A gunman walks into a classroom at Virginia Tech
A gunman walks into a publishing office in France
A gunman walks into a synagogue in Denmark
A gunman walks into a mosque in Wisconsin
A gunman walks into a hospital in Germany
A gunman walks into a school in Colorado

On and on and on it goes.
The disrespect of the lives of those who are innocent, fall away one by one.
Lives disregarded as easily as discarded trash, taken for granted and considered expendable.
Lost in the chaos of twisted, broken, evil and hate filled minds. . .

Sterile
Immune
Safe
Exempt
Sacred
Off limits
Protected

Nothing seems to remain as it appears we have lost all respect for the sacred, the holy, the young, the old. . .even losing our reverence for both life and death. . .

Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17

Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13:7

consequences of our choices

The Wrong we have Done, Thought, or Intended, will wreak its Vengeance on
Our SOULS.”

― C.G. Jung

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”
― C.S. Lewis,

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
― Nelson Mandela

DSCN6476
(a Georgia peach / Julie Cook / 2014)

The third law of physics, as stated by Sir Isaac Newton, proclaims that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I would say that this “law” is not only true for the physical actions in our lives, but is equally true when it comes to our “mental actions” better known as the choices we make in our lives—
For every choice made, there is a resulting consequence–be it good or bad.

Some of our choices not only bring ill effects to ourselves but may have sweeping negative ramifications for others. Therefore one may, in turn, conclude that our choices are accompanied by grave responsibility. Yet who really ponders the decision to change a lane while driving as having potential grave consequence? Who really ponders the decision of taking a flight for a business trip as having possible lasting effects for our loved ones. . .as our plane is blown from the sky?

I would imagine President Harry Truman understood the concept of choices and consequences as he kept a small plaque on his desk “The Buck Stops Here.” Meaning the ultimate end of all decisions and choices regarding the best interest of all the American people and that of those in the free world, rested with him. It was ultimately President Truman’s decision to go with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A choice to bomb or not to bomb—either way would have had consequences—consequences effecting millions which would (and still) continue reverberating far into our future.

Let’s look at this concept of choices and consequences within the frame of a little scenario—

A man walks into a convenient store with a loaded gun pointed at the head of the cashier, demanding all the money in the register. Suddenly, for whatever reason, the robber choses to pull the trigger.
Lives are immediately changed forever.
For the sake of our little story let’s say the cashier is killed.
The robber, now turned murderous gunman, runs.
In that single selfish instant, the cashier’s family is changed forever .
The gunman, let’s say, is eventually apprehended.
His family is forever changed.
There is lengthy legal haggling.
In and out before a judge and the Courts.
Suddenly a bunch of other people are now consumed with the gunman’s selfish choice.
Years pass before there is a trial.
Now all of us as taxpayers are responsible for the gunman’s’ upkeep.
More lives are effected.
Eventually the gunman is found guilty and is sentenced to death.
There are appeals.
Years continue to pass as he lives in prison on Death Row, paid by taxpayers.
As other lives continue to be consumed with his own.
At some point, he turns to God.
He asks for forgiveness.
He is indeed forgiven.

God says to our gunman, “I forgive you and I love you, but your actions have consequence in the life of your world as well as in My World. As I have forgiven you, you will now be welcomed Home, but you must answer for your poor choices there in your world and undergo the punishment given. You must know that you will be with Me in and for Eternity but you will have to first undergo the consequences of your actions.”

Depending on the courts, the state of the crime, and the lengthy appeals, there will either be a sentence of death or life in prison. Either way, the gunman clings to God’s Grace—he accepts his earthly fate as a result of his initial choice of walking in the convenient store, all those many years prior with a gun in his hand, yet now instead of hate, greed, malice, there is a Peace in his being as He knows he is now forever God’s child come home. And there is a resolved acceptance to the punishment of his crime as our gunman now knows that his punishment will not be a permanent ending.

Let’s say for the sake of our little scenario that our gunman does not find God and does not seek forgiveness. He chooses to live bitterly stewing over the one hiccup in his plan, that he was caught.
If he had to do it over again, he’d make certain he was never caught.
There is no remorse—just a seething internal hate and disdain for all creation.

Depending on your belief system, be that in a Heaven or Hell, in a God of Grace and Justice or if you prefer to believe in nothing at all–either way, our gunman’s lack of remorse and choice of a selfish act now sends him either to eternal damnation or into oblivion.
End of story.
And isn’t that all quite empty and sad?

It is obviously not always for us to see justice.
Which can be terribly frustrating as well as painfully maddening. Imagine the hearts of the parents of children who’s young lives have been savagely taken from their parents arms by malice or illness. . . which must lead us all eventually to the Cross for some semblance of direction—but that is for another post.
However, the one thing we must take from this little story of ours is that we are to be mindful of our own choices.

For the one thing we can and do have some manner of control over is indeed our choices.

And granted not all of our choices are going to be as drastic or extreme as an armed gunman’s. . . as that is but a mere example. But it is an example which sums up the ripple effect of poor and selfish choices. The tentacles stretch outward casting a wide net that often stretches out through the ages. One’s negative choices can effect children, grandchildren–oftentimes altering the entire dynamics of a family for generations.

Many of us today continue to pick up the pieces of our parent’s or grandparent’s poor choices which have impacted our own lives in ways that leave us bitter and resentful.

May we then be the cycle breakers. May we be blessed with the vision to see the unhealthy and negative web which may be consuming our lives. May we rest in the knowledge that the cycle can be broken, which is after all, a mere matter of a choice.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.
Isaiah 41:9